11/24/2009

NYT Review: Fela! (the musical)

Ben Brantley raves in the paper of record about the Broadway musical focusing on the turbulent life and times of the influential and revolutionary Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

As brought to the stage by [Bill T.] Jones—the show’s venturesome choreographer, director and, with Jim Lewis, its book writer—“Fela!” doesn’t so much tell a story as soak an audience to and through the skin with the musical style and sensibility practiced by its leading man. That style is Afrobeat, an amalgam of diverse cultural elements that will be parsed and reassembled during the show by its performers and the wonderful Antibalas, an Afrobeat band out of Brooklyn.

Not only is Fela Kuti a musical giant that should be discovered and embraced by music lovers who may not be familiar with his groundbreaking workoften called "the African James Brown", we'd also venture to say Brown is the American Felawe can't think of a better musical surrogate than the great Antibalas to be performing his music for this particular play.

In the meantime, here's the title track from Fela's 1977 album Zombie [Mercury] to get you started or perhaps reminiscing:

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